02/24/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

I’ve been head down for a few years with work and it wasn’t until recently that I took a look at the technologies that have matured and that have been adopted by the DevOps community.

Much has changed.

Things that used to take hours can now be completed in minutes, and these same tasks can be fully automated. This was already happening, but the tools to facilitate this are robust and well-supported.

Based on the communities around these projects, it’s easy to get up and running after reviewing a few tutorials. But since I’m building something important (and I won’t have time to firefight once things are up and running), I decided to buy a few books and take the plunge.

I’m glad I did.

Something that hasn’t changed much in the time that I’ve been doing system administration and server management work is the nature of the posts that are typically published about new technologies.

They’re typically written by:

  1. someone who hacked together an inadvisable workaround;
  2. someone writing an article for money, often at the expense of important security considerations; or
  3. someone with a unique setup (making the post useless for most people)

One huge advantage of reading documentation and official books is that the author of the book is often the creator of the technology.

This is helpful not only because the author benefits from being as clear as possible (a poorly written book is unlikely to get good reviews and be recommended), but they’re incentivized to think through how people will interact with said technologies.

When strength eludes

02/03/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

By Anne Lamott, via Pam Slim.

Nearly twenty years ago, I arrived at a fancy writer’s conference, in what were some of America’s most majestic mountains, where I was looking forward to meeting a great (and sexy) American director, who’d given a lecture the day before. But he had already left.

There was, however, a letter from him, to me: to not-all-that-well-known me. It began well enough, with praise for Bird by Bird, and gratitude for how many times it had inspired him when he got stuck while writing screenplays. He singled out my insistence on trying to seek and tell the truth, whether in memoir or fiction, and my belief that experiencing grief and fear were the way home. The way to an awakening. That God is the Really Real, as the ancient Greeks believed. And God is Love. That tears were not to be suppressed, but would, if expressed, heal us, cleanse up, baptize us, help us water the seeds of new life that were in the ground at our feet.

Coming from a world famous director, it felt like the New York Glitterati was stamping it’s FDA seal of approval on me, and my work.

Unfortunately, the letter continued.

He wrote that while he had looked forward to meeting me, he’d gathered from reading my work that many of my closest friends and family members seemed to have met with traumatic life situations, and sometimes early deaths. So basically, he was getting out of Dodge before I got my tragedy juju all over him, too.

I felt mortified, exposed. He made it seem like I was a sorrow-mongerer, that instead of being present for family and friends who had cancer or sick kids or great losses, I was chasing them down.

And I flushed in that full body Niacin-flush way of toxic shame, at being put down by a man of power, that had been both the earliest, and now most recent, experiences of soul-death throughout my life.

My clingy child was drawing beside me, What did I do? You can’t use your child as a fix, like a junkie. That’s abuse; plus it won’t work.

Well, duh–I fell apart, on the inside, like a two dollar watch.

I had stopped drinking nearly 15 years before, stopped the bulimia 14 years earlier, and so did not have many reliable ways to stuff feelings back down. Also, horribly, my young child, two thousand miles from home, upon noticing my pain, clung even more tightly. I wanted to shout at him, “Don’t you have any other friends?”

What I did was the only thing that has ever worked. After finding a safe and stable person to draw with my son, I called someone and told her all my terrible fears and feelings and projections and secrets.

It was my mentor, Horrible Bonnie.

She listens.

She believes that we are here to become profoundly real, and therefore, free. But horribly–hence her name–she insists that if we want to be free, we have to let every body be free. I hate and resent this so much. It means we have to let the people in our families and galaxies be free to be asshats, if that is how they choose to live.

This however, does not mean we have to have lunch with them. Or go on vacation with them again. But we do have to let them be free.

She also knows, and said that day, that Real can be a nightmare in this world that is so false. The pain and exhaustion of becoming real can land you in the an abyss. And abysses are definitely abysmal; dark nights of the soul; the bottom an addict hits.

And this, she said, was just a new bottom, around people-pleasing, and the craving for powerful fancy people to approve of me. It was a bottom around my psycho doing-ness, my achieving-ness.

She said that because I felt traumatized, and that there had been so much trauma in my childhood, and so many losses in the ensuing years, that the future looked like trauma to me.

But it wasn’t the truth!

There was a long silence. (Again: she listens.)

Finally, I said in this tiny child’s voice, “It isn’t?”

Oh, no, she said. The future, as with every bottom I have landed at, and been walked through, would bring great spiritual increase.

She said I had as much joy and laughter and presence as anyone she knew and some of this had to do with the bottoms I’d experienced, the dark nights of the soul that god and my pit crew had accompanied me through. The alcoholism, scary men, etc.

She said that what I thought the director had revealed was that I am kind of pathetic, but actually what I was getting to see, with her, and later, when I picked up my luscious clingy child, in the most gorgeous mountains on earth, was that I was a ral person of huge heart, laughter, feelings and truth. And his was the greatest gift of all.

The blessing was that again and again, over the years, we got to completely change the script. Thank God. We got to re-invent ourselves, again.

But where do we even start with such terrible days and revelations? She said I’d started when I picked up the 300-pound phone, told someone the truth, felt my terrible feelings. Now, time for radical self care. A shower, some food, the blouse I felt prettiest in. Then I could go get my boy and we could explore the mountain streams.

Wow. We think when we finally get our ducks in a row, we’ve arrived. Now we’ll be happy! That’s what they taught us, and what we’ve sought. But the ducks are bad ducks, and do not agree to stay in a row, and they waddle off quacking, and one keels over, two males get in a fight, and babies are born. Where does that leave your nice row?

I got about five books out of the insights I gleaned from our talk. I still have a sort-of heart shaped rock my son fished out of a stream later. Sadly, this director’s movies have not done well in the last twenty years. Not a one. And all of his hair has since fallen out. Now, as a Christian, my first response to this is, “Hah hah hah.”

But Horrible Bonnie would say, Now you get to tell it, because then it will become medicine. Tell it, girl– that we evolve; that life is stunning, wild, gorgeous, weird, brutal, hilarious and full of grace. That our parents were a bit insane, and that healing from this is taking a little bit longer than we had hoped. Tell it. Well…okay. Yes.

Marketing mortality

01/22/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

I saw a billboard the other day that read, “Non-invasive brain surgery means dad can still give her away.”

In terms of being remarkable (the literal definition of the word, meaning worthy of notice), they nailed it. In terms of making the people who read the billboard feel good about what they’re doing, I’m left with mixed feelings (see: horror and bemusement).

Western culture fears mortality and suggests softer euphemisms to reference the dead and dying. People don’t die here, they “pass away” or perhaps “go on to be with the Lord” depending on your family’s world view and orientation to the Mason–Dixon line.

In many other cultures, both human and (non-human) animal death is cast in a completely different light. Death is not universally feared, it is in fact regularly celebrated and embraced. But that’s not the case here, and I can’t help but feel like the billboard missed the mark.

I could be wrong, but since I don’t have comments enabled on my posts… :)


01/21/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

Every time I accept a friend request on Facebook from someone that I don’t know (particularly people with whom I don’t share friends), it introduces a slew of new strangers into my suggested friends list.

It’s fascinating to see how dramatically different the suggestions are when I add, say, a life coach from the Pam Slim tribe vs. someone’s Aunt who saw my episode of House Hunters International.

This is a really visible reminder of how the people (and influences) we allow in our life matter.

Adding a random stranger sends a signal to Facebook about the kinds of strangers they should send your way. What signals are you sending the Universe about what people to send into your life?

You don’t need Tony

01/20/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

I had some important deadlines coming up recently and needed to iterate on a few big ideas rapidly.

Writing in notebooks felt restricting and waiting two whole days for a whiteboard to be delivered by Amazon was obviously out of the question, so I started writing on the walls of my room in pencil like a crazy person.

It was great.

The progress made on a few of the ideas and projects was enough to obviate my graffiti experiment, so I decided that it was time to paint over the madness. I’m well acquainted with my own brand of crazy, no need to be reminded of it every time I look at my wall.

So this afternoon, I went down to the office in my building to obtain some paint. In the office, I was told that someone named Tony (who was referenced in a tone that suggested bureaucracy and territorial gate-keeping) would need to be petitioned for my 16 ounce request.

As soon as “work order” was mentioned, I pretty much knew how the story would end without evasive action being taken so I started harassing the maintenance workers who were walking into and around the office.

The first referenced the dreaded tyrant (Tony) so he was of no use to me.

The next guy (the newest hire, so far as I can tell) was pushing a cart towards the elevator, so I put on my best non-threatening face and approached him with my container.

Hi. I need some paint.

Without missing a beat, he confirmed that I needed paint for the wall and dutifully headed towards the heavily guarded compound in which the elusive paint was being held captive.

He muttered something about the paint being in an adjacent building, so I decided to wait for him in the lobby. It’s real out here in these streets.

A few moments later, he returned with what I needed.

That’s the end of the story.

I’m not saying that you need to be crazy (nor am I not not saying that), but I am saying that sometimes you don’t need to wait on Tony.

An honor

01/19/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

I had the privilege of organizing a reading of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It’s an important letter, and one whose words carry just as much weight today as they did in 1963.

[More here].

Many thanks to everyone involved, all on short notice:

  1. Winnie Kao
  2. Mike “Ambassador” Bruny
  3. Doc Waller
  4. Darius Gant
  5. Garfield Hylton
  6. Jermaine Maree
  7. Shaun King
  8. Pamela Slim
  9. DeRay McKesson
  10. Dr. Ivor Horn
  11. Charlie Gilkey
  12. Neal Ludevig
  13. Charles Davis
  14. Soledad O’Brien
  15. Greg Hartle
  16. Kimberly Nadia Scott
  17. Lisa Nicole Bell
  18. Paul Drayton
  19. Codie Elaine
  20. André Blackman
  21. John Montgomery II
  22. Daniel Jarvis
  23. James Lopez
  24. Donna Queza
  25. Marc Aarons
  26. Stella Santana
  27. Alex Chavez
  28. Spencer Pitman
  29. Ankit Shah
  30. Cliff Worley
  31. Keylor Leigh
  32. Stephanie Hasham
  33. Willie Jackson (my dad!)
  34. Don Pottinger
  35. Rachel Rodgers
  36. Dr. Angelica Perez-Litwin
  37. Akilah Hughes
  38. Diana Alvear
  39. Danielle Jenene Powell
  40. Emmanuel Azih

This project is dedicated to my father (whose name I share, and whose voice you hear at 37:24), who was born into segregation 71 years ago and taught me everything I know about how to be a man.

A tale of two Ubers

01/13/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

Amusing stories from one day of Uber rides in the South:

  1. My first driver asked me if I was on my way to church. (I wasn’t.)
  2. My second driver apologized for the smell, sharing that her previous rider was smoking weed before she asked him to put it out.

No hidden cameras were discovered before exiting the vehicles.

You already have that

01/12/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

I was chatting with an advisor this month about shipping projects. He shared how leading up to project launches he kicks around ideas aggressively, but once a project is initiated, he refuses to permit distractions and thus always ships on time.

I lit up when hearing this and shared that this was a skill I wanted to cultivate.

…but I was immediately reminded that this was not a skill to develop, but rather a decision. A commitment.

Oh yeah.


01/05/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

John Legend and Common kicked off the new year on a high note with a performance of their Selma theme song “Glory” during “Good Morning America’s” Winter Concert Series. Donning black suits, the well-dressed gentlemen delivered the gospel-soul number live from the “GMA” Times Square studio. With Legend on keys, Common preached to the people with his wise words.

“Glory” was nominated for Best Original Song at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards, while the civil rights drama is a frontrunner for the Oscars.


Now is (y)our time

01/02/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

I posted this on Facebook the other day:

There is such an incredible opportunity for leadership and reform in virtually all aspects of Western society right now.

If you fancy yourself a culture-shaper and influencer or maybe, I don’t know, just a decent human being…we might never see another time like this in our lives.

The problems we face are huge and complex and won’t be solved by the powers that be. They’ll be solved by people like you.

Now is (y)our time.